By Becky Keigan
We’ve heard it, the newspapers are reporting it, states and the federal government are addressing it, our universities are studying it and we in the field of early care and education see it on a daily basis… our preschoolers are getting heavier!
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that “obesity now affects 17% of all children and adolescents in the United States - triple the rate from just one generation.” Obese and overweight children have increased incidence of risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, breathing problems, joint problems, fatty liver disease, and Type 2 diabetes. Obese and overweight children also have a greater risk of social and psychological problems including poor self-esteem and are more likely to become obese adults. http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html Sobering statistics for all of us who have been charged to ensure the health and welfare of all of the children in our care and in our communities!
As a Food Friends® Program Coordinator at Colorado State University since 2009, my work has focused on the research, development and implementation of a nutrition and movement program focused on establishing healthy eating and physical activity habits in preschoolers to prevent future weight gain. The Food Friends program received an implementation grant in 2009 from The Colorado Health Foundation to take the research based program in to 950 preschool classrooms and 600 family child care homes. In 2012 The Food Friends was awarded an additional $875,000 from The Colorado Health Foundation to implement a sustainability plan with all of the Food Friends participants. The grant was written based on my capstone project in the Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program where my Food Friends team and I were able identify the needs of the participants, write them in to the grant proposal and secure funding to help address those needs. The Food Friends program is in 58 out of 64 counties with a current cumulative reach of 50,924 children and families. This reach was made possible in part to the incredible networking with my Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program fellows. A fabulous representation of how the Buell Network supports children and families throughout Colorado!
Here is a brief overview of how The Food Friends program is addressing childhood obesity prevention. The Food Friends: Fun With New Foods® is an evidence base social marketing campaign aimed at increasing children’s willingness to try new foods in an effort to enhance food choice, and hence dietary variety. A physical activity companion program, The Food Friends: Get Movin’ with Mighty Moves® develops gross motor skills to improve the programs’ overall efforts to establish healthful habits that prevent childhood obesity early in life. Both programs have demonstrated significant behavior changes in preschool children and are published in the research literature.
In recognition of September as National Childhood Obesity Awareness month I would like to share The Food Friends 7 Simple Tips to Overcome Picky Eating and to Get Moving. These simple tips can be incorporated in early care and education centers/homes and shared with families.
Fun with New Food: 7 Simple Tips to Overcome Picky Eating
- Make trying new foods fun
- Keep offering new foods
- Offer one new food at a time
- Be a good role model by eating new foods with the children
- Let children choose new foods
- Avoid forcing children to try new foods
- Teach children about new foods
Get Movin’ With Mighty Moves: 7 Simple Tips to Get Moving
- Let children explore with movement
- Make activity fun
- Be creative with activity
- Add activity into daily life
- Budget TV and screen time
- Engage children’s imagination
- Be a good role model by being active with children
I have learned so much in my work over the past four years and my passion has grown to ensure that our precious little children have the opportunity to be healthy as they grow and develop! With that said, I want to emphasize it is we, the adults who are responsible for the health of our children! It is our job… our job! We are the adults, they are the children. We are the ones who are buying the food they eat and scheduling how/where they spend time. We owe it to the children to provide healthy food and beverage choices… to give them opportunities to move their bodies… build those gross motor skills… allow for free, glorious play throughout the day… to have fun learning about food and what their bodies can do! Join me in this critical cause, together we can join the national movement to address childhood obesity.
For more information on The Food Friends and/or program participation and healthy children please contact me, Becky Keigan at 970-491-3562 or by email email@example.com
The Clayton Early Learning Blog Team has multiple goals—(1) To educate and inform our community about critical early childhood issues, (2) To generate new ideas and increase our knowledge through the process of writing, and (3) To build connections with each other and our community. In light of these goals, this team has recently begun using short video provocations to spark new ideas and connections during our monthly meetings.
During our August meeting, we viewed the TED Talk by Simon Sinek on How Great Leaders Inspire Action http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.html. Simon Sinek argues the reason why some organizations are more successful as a leader in their industry (i.e. Apple Inc.) is because they follow a different formula for communication about their organization than the rest of us. They talk about what they believe first, then how they translate their belief into a product or service, and last about what it is they are offering at that moment. Sinek believes that we often begin our communications with what we are offering, and miss opportunities to inspire ourselves and others. When we start with why we are there in the first place, our passion for our work becomes evident and other people get excited and want to join our cause.
Through discussion, the team was inspired to think of our own “I believe” statements to communicate why each of us work at Clayton Early Learning and how our belief drives the type of work we do every day. Below are four “I believe” statements from members of the Blog Team:
Kelsey Petersen-Hardie, Mentor Coach, Education & Early Childhood Services
I believe we can positively impact the ill effects that poverty and toxic stress have on children and families and that if we begin when a child is young, we see better results. Because I believe this, I work in the field of Early Childhood Education. When young children receive high quality and responsive care and families receive support that is needed, children and families can experience better outcomes.
Wendy Allen, Buell Leaders Alumni Network Coordinator
I believe all people are born with the capacity to learn and that this capacity should be supported and utilized to the fullest across the lifespan. Because I believe this, I work to enhance the learning experiences of adults serving as leaders across our system of care and education for young children. The Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program and Alumni Network is an opportunity to transform how individuals, programs, and communities support and utilize their own learning capacities.
Nathan Pope, Research and Evaluation Program Associate
I believe that all children are capable of greatness and desire to be challenged. Because I believe this, I use research and evaluation to understand each child’s strengths and provide feedback to support the work teachers do in their classrooms. Research studies at Clayton Early Learning use data to connect the research, practice, and training loop so children reach their full potential.
Cheryl Comstock, Instructional Technology Manager
I believe that anyone willing deserves a chance at a good education, and that technology is one of the most important tools available to us within our educational spaces. Because I believe this, I am here to help Clayton Early Learning move forward into new and innovative spaces that embrace technology for education. Clayton Early Learning now has a thriving Blog, growing Facebook Page, and we are exploring how to incorporate online professional development opportunities for the communities in which we work and serve.
The Blog Team believes that social media, including blogging, is a new tool to support learning across communities. By embracing this new technology and form of connection, Clayton Early Learning is inviting our community to band together as we do the critical work of early care and education.
Would you like to join our Blog conversation? What is your “I Believe” Statement? If so, you can leave your statement in the Comment section at the bottom of this blog.
Images found online September 3, 2013, at http://www.dreamstime.com/and
Seamless Pattern Of Flower Illustration Background Stock Image courtesy of Sicha Pongjivanich/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
By Brenda Hoge
One of the more challenging criteria to meet on the Infant-Toddler Environment Rating Scale-Revised (ITERS-R) is taking infants and toddlers outdoors to play for an hour every day. We often hear from providers that “parents don’t want their infant outdoors because they’ll get sick” or that “there’s no time to take young children outside when there are so many routines and individualized schedules.” So why is it important to take infants and toddlers outdoors? How do you set up a safe outdoor environment for them? And finally, what do you do with them once you get them outdoors?
Importance of Outdoor Play
During the first few years of life, infants and toddlers are trying to make sense of their world. One of the ways they do this is by soaking up every noise, every sound, and every experience that they have. They then take this information and come up with ideas about how the world works. So, not only is being outdoors an enjoyable experience for infants and toddlers, it’s critical for cognitive development. During the first three years of life, brain synapses form at a rapid rate. These synapses are formed based on the richness of the child’s sensory environment. So, it would make sense that childcare providers would want to provide a stimulating environment for infants and toddlers, both indoors and outdoors. In addition, the knowledge they gain outdoors provides a foundation to literacy and science learning (Dewey, 1938/1963).
Outdoor experiential learning also promotes early language development. Having a rich sensory experience gives young children something to talk about. When an infant feels the leaves or the toddler notices the airplane in the sky, they are more inclined to verbalize this experience because it will elicit a favorable response by their caregivers.
This verbalization to others also promotes social development. Even infants, who do not have the ability to physically play with others, are able to watch others, which is the first step in social development (Oesterreich, 1995).
Finally, outdoor experiences are critical for infant and toddler physical development. According to Gabbard (1998), the “window of opportunity” for acquiring basic motor movements is from prenatal to five years of age. During this time the brain gathers and stores information, and a solid foundation for movement activities is built. Infants need interesting things to look at from a horizontal and vertical position. They need materials and space to practice
crawling and things to pull up on, so that they can learn to walk. Toddlers need space and materials that will help them act out prepositions-over, under, on top of, inside, outside, behind, in front of, up, and down (Rivkin, 2000).
How to set up an Outdoor Play Environment
Infants and toddlers require constant supervision when they are outdoors. Because they are exploring their world, they often taste it first, which can result in more exposure to germs or to choking hazards. Therefore, it is necessary to make sure that all potential choking hazards are removed from the area and that caregivers are in close proximity to children so that they can remove unwanted objects from mouths.
Infants and toddlers also need a surface that will allow them to move around easily. This surface should be accessible to all children. It should be made of materials that will not get too hot in the summer or too icy in the winter. It should provide comfort, tactile experiences, and protect children when they fall. Because children are still mastering balance, there must be enough room to move without hitting a hard surface or sharp edges. The surfacing material should be around all equipment over 18 in. tall so that when children fall, it won’t cause any life-threatening head injuries or broken bones.
The outdoor equipment should challenge children, but should be based on realistic expectations about what children at this age can and cannot do. All anchored equipment should be designed for toddlers, based on the new ASTM F 2373-05 guidelines for children ages 6 months to 23 months. Many playground manufacturers are not aware of these new standards therefore, it is important to check with them before purchasing equipment. Also, keep in mind that young toddlers are just learning to walk. They do not need high equipment, ladders, or climbers because they haven’t mastered taking large steps. Walking across a low, wide bridge or balance beam is challenging to them. Playing with riding toys, trikes, wagons (where they can put other materials in it), and different sizes of balls are just as interesting as climbing onto a structure. For infants, providing grass, balls, push toys, tunnels, and a ramp for crawling is just as stimulating as having a slide or a baby swing.
“A playground should be like a small-scale replica of the world, with as many as possible of the sensory experiences to be found in the world included in it. Experiences for every sense are needed for instance: rough and smooth; objects to look at and feel; light and heavy things to pick up; water and wet materials as well as dry things; cool materials and materials warmed by the sun; soft and hard surfaces; things that make sounds or that can be struck, plucked, plinked, etc.; smells of all varieties; shiny, bright objects and dull, dark ones; things both huge and tiny; high and low places to look at and from; materials of every type-natural, synthetic, thin, thick, and so on. The list is inexhaustible, and the larger the number of items that are included, the richer and more varied the environment for the child (Greenman, 1988).”
So what do you do with infants and toddlers outdoors?
Beyond the activities already mentioned, there are many interesting and fun experiences that you can provide for both infants and toddlers outdoors.
For children 0-3 months:
Provide a blanket for the baby to lay on. Point out the leaves moving, let them feel the leaves or grass, and point out the nature sounds that they hear.
For children 3 months-6 months:
With the blanket, let the child explore on his/her stomach. Bring out objects to grasp, books, or activity gyms. Again, point out the things happening in nature and let them feel natural objects.
For children 6 months-9 months:
Create a texture path on the ground using assorted textures, such as carpet squares, rugs, grass, and resilient surfacing. The children can crawl along this path to explore large motor skills and sensory stimulation (Miller, 1989). Provide tunnels, balls, and safe sensory tubes.
For children 9 months-12 months:
Provide balls, bubbles, and toys that are sturdy enough for them to practice standing. For early walkers, provide simple push toys. Attach musical toys, activity centers, and mirrors to the fence at different levels for children who are still crawling and for children who are standing.
For toddlers: Continue to add more materials that reflect the variety of developmental skills. Bring out riding toys and trikes, wagons to pull, baby carriages with dolls, large trucks to push, etc. Bring some music outdoors so that children can practice dancing, jumping, and twirling outdoors. Set up simple games. The HAPPE (High Autonomy Physical Play Environment), provides a great list of games for toddlers that can be played outdoors. Set up obstacle courses where toddlers can climb over and under material and walk a curved path. And finally, provide a garden outdoors so that children can learn about soil, plants, and insects.
So what about the weather and the parents?
The ITERS-R does require that infants and toddlers spend an hour a day outdoors, weather permitting. “Weather permitting” can be subject to interpretation of course. Thelma Harms, who is one of the authors of the Environment Rating Scales, often speaks of an old Swedish saying that says “there is no bad weather, only bad clothes.” If you travel to different sites across Colorado you will see this reflected on the Western slope where infants and toddlers are dressed in snow suits, gloves, hats, and boots to go outside in the winter. If the mountain communities waited until the weather was “appropriate,” they would only get to be outside from June-October. The children are warm, happy, and excited to be outdoors. The only complaints are from the teachers who are often not dressed appropriately. Work with your parents on providing appropriate clothing for all kinds of weather and a change of clothes for when children get dirty. Also set up a clothing donation box so that parents, teachers, or other adults in the program can drop off winter clothing that no longer fits their child. You can then use that clothing for children who do not have extra warm winter clothes. Even if infants and toddlers are only out for 5 or 10 minutes because the weather is bad, it will help prevent illness and it will give them some of those sensory experiences that are so critical for their development.
Remember that the experiences that infants and toddlers have outdoors while they are in child-care, may in fact, be the only opportunity they have to really explore the outdoors. By taking infants and toddlers outdoors, you are providing wonderful opportunity and you are setting up a good model for parents to follow. If children learn to love being outdoors when they are young, it will make them healthier. It will also help ensure that they will take better care of our world when they are adults.
Dempsey, J. (2005) Outdoor play and playgrounds for infants and toddlers [Electronic version]. Available online. Accessed October 18, 2007.
Dewey, J. (1938/1963). Experience and Education. New York: Collier.
Gabbard, C. (1998). Windows of opportunity for early brain and motor development. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, Volume 69, pp. 54-55.
Greenman, J. (1988). Caring spaces, learning places. Children’s environments that work. Redmond, WA.: Exchange Press.
Harms, T., Cryer, D., and Clifford, R. (2006). Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale-Revised Edition. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Oesterreich, L. (1995). Ages & Stages-Newborn to 1 year [Electronic version]. In L. Oesterreich, B. Holt, & S. Karas, Iowa family child care handbook [Pm 1541] (pp 192-196). Ames, IA: Iowa State University Extension.
Parish, L.E. and Rudisill, M.E. (2006). HAPPE: Toddlers in physical play [Electronic version]. Journal of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Retrieved October 18, 2007, from www.journal.naeyc.org/btj/200605/parishBTJ.asp.
Rivkin, M.S. (2000, December). Outdoor Experiences for young children [Electronic version]. ERIC Digest. Retrieved October 11, 2007, from www.ericdigests.org/2001-3/children.htm (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 448013).
As staff members of the Clayton organization, we often have one particular issue within the early childhood field that we are particular passionate about. In my case it is providing support to males who work in Early Childhood Education. In working with this topic, I began to look into what resources were available for males who work in the ECE field. I found that within the Colorado area the resources that a male working in the ECE field could access were limited or non-existent. In 2011, I began the creation of an organization with three other male ECE professionals that would have an active presence for males working in the ECE field called Men in Early Childhood-Colorado (MEC) www.mec-colorado.org. The organization is committed to developing a network that provides support, advocacy, and education to in order to retain and to recruit additional males to work in the field.
Recently, on June 1st, MEC held the 2013 Summer Conference at Clayton Early Learning. The conference began with a keynote address by Doug Gertner, The Grateful Dad, www.thegratefuldad.org. The keynote address was entitled, Understanding Men’s Lives: Theories of Masculinities, and the included the following discussions:What is it exactly that defines a man and makes masculinity distinct from the feminine? Why are men the way they are? These questions can inform the work of early childhood educators, both men and women, and help to encourage more men to enter this work, and more fathers to be involved in schools and classrooms. We’ll begin by examining several theories about male gender role development, review the major men’s movements, and seek a better understanding of male behavior, in order to deepen our ability to attract and support male teachers and serve fathers in our schools and centers.
Doug’s keynote provided some valuable insight into how we as an ECE community can continue to improve our ability to support males who work in ECE and of course, the fathers of the children in our programs. The remainder of the conference topics was ones that we are passionate individually as ECE professionals. We had a panel of three individuals (Andrew Goff, Ben Wilkins, and I). Andrew spoke about Boys in the Classroom and provided some quick and easy tips and strategies to help with those energetic and active boys in the classroom. Andrew specifically spoke about utilizing the different learning styles of boys and how we can equate them with the different child development theories. Ben spoke about Technology in the classroom and provided the participants some hands-on examples about activities that they could do in their classrooms. He share with the group about items that he has in his classroom and appropriate applications for early childhood setting I spoke on how logical strategies to support men who work in the ECE field. We ended our time at the conference with a guided discussion about, “What does School Readiness Mean.” Being that the participants were primarily all from ECE backgrounds, we had many of the same ideas and thoughts behind this question. The discussion revolved around how there is different aspects to school readiness. These aspects include cultural, academic, school setting, and home setting. . With the conclusion of this discussion, our conference was over. It was a good time for all and we look forward to seeing you at our next conference or possibly assisting us with our fall music event for fathers. How would having a male ECE educator benefit your child or school?
By Brenda Hoge
The ERS (Environmental Rating Scales) Team at Clayton Early Learning is holding one of their bi-annual trainings here on campus this week. Because of this, it only seemed appropriate to republish Brenda Cobb-Hoge's blog on Early Childhood Classroom assessment from last spring.
From May, 2012
Assessing quality in Early Childhood Classrooms is not new to many of us in Colorado. We have been assessing quality in many of our classrooms and family childcare homes for over 12 years, primarily through the use of the Environment Rating Scales (ECERS-R, ITERS-R, FCCERS-R). As Colorado begins building a new version of the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), it’s important to reflect on what we have learned along the way – and what challenges remain. So as I think in terms of packing my “Quality Suitcase,” these are some of the things I would bring along on this next adventure:
The Importance of Training: One of the first things we’ve learned with our involvement using the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scales (ERS) is that training before implementation is critical. Providing overview trainings for teachers, providers and Directors on the tools as well as more in-depth training for coaches was key to improving quality based on the tools because it gave everyone the “why” behind the indicators and assured everyone that they could pick and choose the indicators that they felt was important to implement in their program.
Coaching Support is Key: Another thing we learned along the way is the importance of coaches and their role in the “Improvement” part of this process. As some communities began using the Rating, their programs were getting money for materials based on their ERS scores but we weren’t really changing the quality. We also had TA services where someone would come in and help the program “get ready for the rating” which worked for the “month rating window” but it really didn’t help create lasting improvements. Centers and homes that have been provided with individualized coaching have focused on not just the “test” but rather on more introspection, goal-setting, and education, and again, quality in these programs has improved over time. As coaches have begun working with the Raters, it has become more of a unified support system for the program, which has been very beneficial.
Reliability equals trust: The third thing we’ve learned along the way is how important it is to have a reliability system for our Quality Ratings. As the Qualistar Rating has become more “high stakes” having well-trained Rating Specialists whose reliability is checked regularly has been crucial in building trust in the system. Yes, not everyone can be consistent 100% of the time due to the high variance in the types of programs Rating Specialists encounter, but by having highly reliable Raters, program disputes over the observation portion of the rating have decreased over time.
Incentives: Because child care is so expensive to implement at a “quality level” the fourth important thing is that we need to provide incentives for programs that participate. Whether the incentives come in the form of grants for staff training or coaching or whether it comes in the form of higher reimbursement rates, programs need support to make “quality” happen.
Buy-in to the system: Finally one of the last things we learned over time is the importance of buy-in to the process both from the provider perspective and from the parents who put their children in our child care centers/homes. We want providers invested in improving the quality of their classrooms; that they really understand that quality is something you work on every single day – not just the day or month of the rating. Yes anyone can “pass the test” on any of these quality measures, but to really commit to quality every single day is extremely important. In our programs who have invested the time and energy to work on quality every day, the benefits to the children enrolled in those programs can be life-changing.
For parents, who are the consumers, it’s also important that they buy in to this system and that they no longer accept poor quality care for their children. Yes, the problem that we continue to face is that many parents’ choices in child care may, out of necessity, be driven by costs of programs rather than the quality. I’m fairly certain that if you asked any parent, they would prefer to put their child in a quality program if we could find a way to make it affordable.
So as we look to introducing more quality improvement measures for our child care centers and homes, it’s important to take what we have learned and improve upon it. And like any suitcase, there are some things that we take with us but we never use, and some things we forgot to bring along or couldn’t fit that are critical to our journey. Some of these include the buy-in of providers and parents, approaches and tools for working with Dual-Language Learners and Staff, support for the wide array of curricula that are being used by our programs, funding for our improved QRIS system, and having resources in place in all areas of Colorado and for all types of programs. And while this is just a small list of what we’ve learned and what we still need to answer, it’s a start. What other things have you learned from our ERS journey that we need to pack with us in our “Quality Suitcase” as we embark on this new direction?
By Molly Yost
State leaders in search of some light reading are picking-up Duck on a Bike and putting down the bills as Colorado’s 2013 legislative session comes to a close. This past week more than 70,000 copies of the children’s book made their way into the hands of youngsters across the state as part of One Book 4 Colorado – a collaborative initiative between the Lt. Governor’s Office, Serve Colorado, the Denver Preschool Program, Reach out and Read Colorado, public libraries, and the business and philanthropic community. This is just one of several efforts geared towards raising public awareness about the importance of early literacy and the impact high quality early childhood education has on future academic achievement. In tandem with the week’s events was the release of the Colorado Reads 2013: The Early Literacy Initiative report. This comprehensive blueprint outlines the state’s progress and a path forward to ensure more children are reading at grade level by third grade.
Capping-off the excitement were a number of landmark measures aimed at strengthening the state’s birth to eight policy agenda by increasing access, quality, and coordination of early childhood programs. Here are some of the highlights from the 2013 legislative session:
- SB13-213: Dubbed “the Future School Finance Act,” this bill will modernize Colorado’s education financing system with an unprecedented focus on expanding access to high quality early childhood education, pending the passage of a statewide ballot initiative to approve requisite funding. The legislation would remove the cap of the number of slots available for the Colorado Preschool Program (current cap is 20,160 slots), allowing all at-risk 3- and 4-year olds to participate. In addition, the bill would increase access to full-day Kindergarten for families wishing to attend.
- SB13-260: Funding will be provided to increase enrollment in the Colorado Preschool Program by 3,200 slots through the state’s 2013-2014 School Finance Act. Districts can also choose to use the money for full-day kindergarten. The original version of the bill included the Expanding Quality Incentive Program (EQUIP), which would have created a $5 million grant program to support school districts seeking quality ratings for their preschool programs and also to improve program quality. EQUIP was stripped from the bill on the Senate floor.
- HB13-1117: “The Alignment of Early Childhood and Development Programs” strengthens Colorado’s newly-established Office of Early Childhood by moving additional early childhood programs from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment into the CDHS. Governor Hickenlooper and Executive Director of Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS), Reggie Bicha, announced the creation of the Office of Early Childhood last summer. The office seeks to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of program delivery and administration by co-locating several early childhood programs within the CDHS. The legislation also reauthorized the Early Childhood Leadership Commission, Colorado’s Early Childhood State Advisory Council.
- HB13-1291: This legislation creates the Colorado Infant and Toddler Quality and Availability Grant Program within CDHS. The $3 million grant program encourages local early childhood councils and county departments of human services to partner to increase the quality and availability of care for programs serving infants and toddlers through the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP). The grant program offers local communities the flexibility to implement plans by providing quality ratings to non-rated participating classrooms, quality improvement grants, higher reimbursement rates to programs rated in the top two levels of Colorado’s quality rating and improvement system, and fostering parental involvement.
With the support of Governor Hickenlooper and Lt. Governor Garcia, early childhood education emerged as a top priority this session. This year’s budget reflects significant investments not only in ECE, but an increase of $4.5 million in state funding for Early Intervention Colorado and an $800,000 increase in the Nurse Home Visitor Program to expand direct services to six additional counties in northeast Colorado. Spring seems to be blooming with good news for Colorado children and families!
If you were to walk to the Clayton Early Learning building today you would walk along a path of blue and silver pinwheels (given that the children haven't already "plucked" up all the enticing spinning sparkles)! Walk inside and you see a rather large Pinwheel on the wall. Why all the pinwheels you may wonder? Well, April was National Child Abuse Prevention month and the pinwheel is symbolic of the bright futures that ALL children deserve. To learn more about the Pinwheels for Prevention campaign visit their website: http://www.preventchildabusecolorado.org/ Child Abuse is a topic that hits the pit of your stomach. It’s tragic, horrifying, and unthinkable. But it's important that we do talk about its presence in our community, because ignoring the issue isn't going to make it go away. Support for child abuse prevention efforts have expanded due in part to the growing body of evidence that suggests home visitation programs for families with young children can reduce the incidence of maltreatment and improve child and family outcomes. Additional research has shown the impact Six Protective Factors have on strengthening families and as a result reducing the likelihood of child abuse within those families. Programmatically we are working within home visitation programs and these ‘protective factors’ every day. Therefore, it is easy to see how Clayton Early Learning is poised at the front lines to be making giant impacts with this work. We don't need a specific "month" to work within these concepts (because it is what our program is fundamentally about) but it's a great opportunity to align with community efforts to help spread the word. So let me tell you a little bit more about what those ‘protective factors’ are.
6 Protective Factors
- Nurturing and Attachment - It is the basis of all development. Babies are born social creatures and need attachments to survive. This protective factor emphasizes the importance for caregivers to understand and meet their child’s need for love, affection and stimulation.
- Social Connections - Much like the Nurturing and Attachment factor. The social connections protective factor addresses the importance of caregivers to build a network of emotionally supportive friends, family and neighbors.
- Parental Resiliency - All families have inner strengths and skills. This protective factor focuses on the ability of families to tap into these resources, which can help serve as a foundation for building their internal resiliency.
- Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development - Knowing what is the usual course of child development helps provide families with the ability to set realistic and consistent expectations for their children.
- Social Emotional Competency of Children - The more children are able to identify, regulate and communicate their feelings, the more responsive families can be to meet their children’s needs, which leads to decreased stress and frustration.
- Concrete Supports for Parents - This is the tangible supports we can offer to families such as parenting support groups, resources, and educational classes.
To learn more about these Protective Factors and how you can be active in strengthening families visit the websites of The Center for the Study of Social Policy and the Child Welfare Information Gateway [http://www.cssp.org].
Please take a few extra minutes this month to educate yourself on ways Colorado is addressing Child Abuse.
Whatever your role, you can find ways to encourage providers and parents in building these protective factors within their families and communities.
History of Child Abuse Prevention Month. Retrieved from https://www.childwelfare.gov/preventing/preventionmonth/history.cfm
Preventing Child Maltreatment and Promoting Well-Being: A Network for Action 2013. Retrieved from http://www.preventchildabusecolorado.org/
Supporting Evidence-Based Home Visiting to Prevent Child Maltreatment. Retrieved from http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/earlychildhood/evidencebasedhomevisiting.asp
Other ideas for setting a positive environment.
By Megan Bock
Kids say the darnedest things. I am still caught off guard when I hear our preschool students use one of my phrases. Sometimes I hear a student say, “Okey Dokey Artichokey” or “Silly Willy,” two of my common goofy phrases. Other times I hear my students say, “How can I help you?” or “What are we going to do about this?” When I stop and listen, I hear myself in my students. Considering how much my students absorb from their environment, I realize my approach is deeply influential in our classroom culture. After hearing my echo across our classroom, I decided to more intentionally examine how to shape our culture to foster vulnerability, courage, resilience, and security.
The Office of Head Start describes ideal classroom environments as:
…places where children feel well cared for and safe. They are places where children are valued as individuals and where their needs for attention, approval, and affection are supported. They are also places where children can be helped to acquire a strong foundation in the knowledge and skills needed for school success. (“Creating a Learning Environment,” 2002)
In my efforts to move closer to this ideal environment, I began reading books and listening to TED talks http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html by Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Brown researches shame and vulnerability and identifies practices that lead to “wholehearted living.” In her recent book, Daring Greatly: How Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brown discusses how vulnerability is both the core of difficult emotions like fear, grief, and disappointment and the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, empathy, innovation, and creativity. While reading Brown’s book, I discovered that vulnerability is a vital part of any culture that inspires innovation and learning.
Brown describes culture as “the way we do things around here” (Brown, 2012, p. 174). She writes about how culture describes who we are and what we believe. When thinking about cultures of organizations, schools, faith communities, and teams, Brown asks these ten questions:
- What behaviors are rewarded? Punished?
- Where and how are people actually spending their resources (time, money, attention)?
- What rules and expectations are followed, enforced, and ignored?
- Do people feel safe and supported talking about how they feel and asking for what they need?
- What are the sacred cows? Who is most likely to tip them? Who stands the cows back up?
- What stories are legend and what values do they convey?
- What happens when someone fails, disappoints, or makes a mistake?
- How is vulnerability (uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure) perceived?
- How prevalent are shame and blame and how are they showing up?
- What’s the collective tolerance for discomfort? Is the discomfort of learning, trying new things, and giving and receiving feedback normalized, or is there a high premium put on comfort (and how does that look)?
These questions stirred me to consider the culture in my classroom, my workplace, and my family. While all questions provoked my thinking, questions seven and ten most inspired me to think the cultures in my life.
Question #7: What happens when someone fails, disappoints, or makes a mistake?
Failing, disappointing, and making mistakes are part of the learning process. Everyone makes mistakes, but we need to fix our errors, clean up our messes, and reconcile injured relationships. When resolving issues in our classroom, we collaboratively problem-solve and identify a solution. We acknowledge the mistake, but we spend most of our time and energy working toward a resolution.
Question #10: What’s the collective tolerance for discomfort? Is the discomfort of learning, trying new things, and giving and receiving feedback normalized, or is there a high premium put on comfort (and how does that look)?
This question caused me to consider how I give feedback and challenge my students. I often tell my students, “I am still learning how to do this.” All of us are still learning something, but we also recognize our strengths so that we can help each other improve. Comfort in our classroom has more to do with our relationships with each other and less to do with the content of our curriculum. When we work on challenging projects that push us out of our comfort zones, each of us is stretched to try new things and do our best.
After reflecting on Brown’s questions, I pay more attention to my echoes. What are my students saying? How are do they respond to each other? Can I see evidence of their sense of security, their willingness to try new things, and their tolerance for the discomfort of learning?
Where do you hear your echo? In your family? In your co-workers? In your students? What do your echoes tell you about your culture? Which question(s) provoke you to try something different in your communities?
Blog by Megan Bock
Brown, B (2012). Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. New York: Gottham Books.
Creating a Learning Environment for Young Children. (2012). Teaching our Youngest. Early Childhood-Head Start Task Force. ED/HHS. Retrieved from http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/tta-system/teaching/eecd/learning%20environments/planning%20and%20arranging%20spaces/edudev_art_00400_060906.html
By Molly Yost
Policymaking occurs on several different levels – at the federal, state, and local level. What is policy and why does it matter to us? Policy is a course of action, selected from alternatives which guides and determines decisions and practices. Policy may refer to action of governments and of public and/or private organizations. This post will explore a significant piece of early childhood policy and the process by which it makes its way through the Colorado General Assembly.
“There are two things you don’t want to see being made – sausage and legislation.” Attributed to German Chancellor Otto von Bismark (1815-1898), this timeless comparison of sausage making and lawmaking has endured for centuries. John A. Straayer offered this description of our very own state legislature in his book, The Colorado General Assembly: a venue in which “a score of basketball games are progressing, all at one time, on the same floor, with games at different stages, with participants playing on several teams at once, switching at will, opposing each other in some instances and acting as teammates in others.” Casinos, marketplaces, and zoos are also metaphorical favorites when expounding the chaotic and awesome nature of legislatures.
All bills, in accordance with state statute, follow a common format. Bills are assigned a number, a title, and a sponsor. HB13-1117 indicates that the bill was the 117th bill introduced in the House (all House bills are numbered from 1001) in the year 2013. HB13-1117, sponsored by Representative Hamner and Senators Hodge and Newell, was introduced earlier in the session and assigned to the Public Health Care and Human Services Committee (committee of reference) by the Speaker of the House. This introduction is commonly known as the bill’s “first reading.” In Committee, the bill is presented by a sponsor and its details are carefully scrutinized. Research, testimony, and studies on the bills fiscal impact are reviewed and discussed by committee members. From here, committee members can amend the bill, refer it to another committee, postpone indefinitely (also known has “killing” a bill), or lay it over for consideration later in the legislative session.
So what are the ingredients in the bill? HB13-1117 has two major components. The first component of the bill is the transfer of several programs from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to the Department of Human Services in order to promote greater alignment and increase the efficiency of program administration, policies, and procedures to better serve children and families. As you may know, there are several different programs serving children and families spread across several different state agencies. The result is a very fragmented system that is often difficult for families to navigate. The following programs will be relocated from CDPHE to CDHS to enhance coordination and collaboration at the state and local level:
• the Nurse Home Visitation Program;
• the Tony Grampsas Youth Services Program including the Colorado Student Dropout Prevention and Intervention Program and the Colorado Before-and-After School Project;
• the Colorado Children's Trust Fund and its board; and
• the Family Resource Center Program.
The second component reauthorizes the Early Childhood Leadership Commission (Colorado’s Early Childhood State Advisory Council) until 2018 and relocates it from the Lieutenant Governor’s Office to the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) Division of Boards and Commissions. This commission, comprised of state agency representatives, business leaders, providers, and parents, will be responsible for making recommendations and advising further alignment of early childhood programs and funding streams.
After discussion and testimony, HB13-1117 was slightly amended (or altered) and successfully “passed out” of the House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee. After making its way through the House, the bill was sent to the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services where it passed with bi-partisan support (6-1). Next stop: the Senate Appropriations Committee.
If you would like to read HB13-1117, view voting history, or find other information about the Colorado legislature, visit: http://www.leg.state.co.us/clics/clics2013A/cslFrontPages.nsf/HomeSplash?OpenForm
“How Our Laws Are Made” infographic by Mike Wirth and Dr. Suzanne Cooper-Guasco for Sunlight Foundation “Design for America Competition” 2010, sources: “How Our Laws Are Made” by John V. Sullivan (Rev. 6.24.07 thomas.loc.gov) and What is a Lobbyist? - wiseGEEK and Reconciliation in the Senate - Brookings Institution. See full-size image at, http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/aa/Visualization-of-How-a-Bill-Becomes-a-Law_Mike-WIRTH.jpg. Learn more at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Procedures_of_the_U.S._Congress
Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) is an approach to teaching grounded both in the research on how young children develop and learn and in what is known about effective early education. Its framework is designed to promote young children’s optimal learning and development. DAP involves teachers meeting young children where they are (by stage of development), both as individuals and as part of a group; and helping each child meet challenging and achievable learning goals. http://www.naeyc.org/DAP
In my opinion, the planning team for the Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program (BECLP) rooted and grounded the program’s framework (for leaders and emerging leaders in the field) with the same Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) concept as listed above. Whether purposed or incidental it is the responsible for the success of the program!
I first learned of BECLP in 2009 and decided to attend an open house. I considered applying for the 2010/2011 cohort, but life presented me with the birth of my 3rd child. The 2011/2012 cohort was the 5th and possibly final cohort and my last opportunity to take advantage of such a uniquely developed and prestigious program. As an administrator with over 15 years experience in Early Childhood, Bachelors in Management and an MBA in Administration, I attended numerous ECE workshops and conferences, but did not have an extensive amount of college credits related directly to ECE. BECLP provided an opportunity for me to advance to a Level V Early Childhood Credential. I was curious and initially unsure how BECLP’s curriculum would strengthen me as a leader in the field, especially since my work role lies in the business sector with a focus outside the classroom.
I was ecstatic when I received the letter stating I was one of the 20 chosen to go through the program. During our summer symposium the BECLP teaching staff brought in Dr. Jill Stamm to present on early brain development: birth to three. Dr. Stamm’s shared knowledge awakened my interest in the neuroscience connected to early brain development. The more I learned through BECLP the more I wanted to know and the more my passion grew for “chocolate” aka children (inside story).
The most rewarding aspects about the program were:
- Learning patience with my passion through the Theory U tool
- The teaching techniques used by the BECLP team accommodated differentiated learning styles
- More than just text books: field trips, presentations, projects, group work, Q&A sessions with a panel of experts, guest speakers (doctors, politicians, business personnel, researchers, experts) all of whom were extremely knowledgeable and who presented content directly related to the field, face-to-face experiences with legislators on the legislative floor, curriculum connected to real work and hands-on activities covering all arenas of ECE from teaching to finance to advocacy
- Assigned a personal BECLP mentor and able to elect our own field mentor
- Being a BFF (Buell Fellow Five) – which generated new relationships. These relationships opened network opportunities and connections to different leaders with diverse roles in ECE representing numerous counties in Colorado.
The BECLP team created the ideal classroom for adults. The classroom modeled how school systems should create learning environments for early learners; taking them out from behind the desk and chairs and adding fun (neuroscience brain note: fun is connected with pleasure, which in turn creates a chemical release in the brain to want more). Creating fun learning environments = the desire to want to learn more (an ingenious concept).
Navigating through Theory U was my biggest struggle, but it helped me unveil an ACT for my critical issue. With this program I was able to identify a need in the field and ACT as a leader to generate a ripple toward a solution. In extension to my capstone project I collaborated with two BECLP fellows (Sena Harjo & Dorothy Shapland) to create The Nest Matters: Advice from egg to flight.
The Nest Matters focuses on early child development from prenatal (the egg phase) through the stages of tweens when children prepare to leave the nest (the flight phase).In partnership with the Denver Urban Spectrum, The Nest Matters features a monthly column and has created its own blog (www.thenestmatters.blogspot.com) sharing the latest research from experts, researchers, and doctors in Early Childhood Education and Child Development. The owner of Denver Urban Spectrum is working with The Nest Matters in building its audience with the goal to launch its own community magazine focused on early child development.
The BECLP helped foster me as a leader and it has been an awesome journey ever since. The BECLP Alumni Network continues to provide an opportunity to remain active and stay connected with other fellows. Learning that BECLP had been extending was the best news and I am looking forward to meeting and possibly working with the next group of fellows.